Karnataka’s popular indigenous theatre form, Yakshagana, lost one of its most accomplished artistes, Gerukatte Gangaiah Shetty, on Wednesday.
Gangaiah Shetty was performing the role of Arunasura, a demon who is killed by Goddess Durga, when he collapsed on the stage. Shetty and his troupe, Kateel Mela, were performing at Yekkaru, a village in Mangaluru’s Kateel taluk on Wednesday night.
The shocked performers of Kateel Mela took him to the Kasturba Medical College Hospital in Kateel, where he was declared brought dead. The post-mortem report found that he had died of a cardiac arrest.
Gangaiah Shetty, born to Ammu and Kamala Shetty in 1954, hailed from Gerukatte village in Mangaluru’s Belthangady taluk. He began learning Yakshagana at the age of 10 and later joined the Yakshagana training centre at Dharmastala, where he learnt the art form under Padre Chandu, who has taught many popular Yakshagana artists.
Over the years, Gangaiah Shetty mastered the art form under the expert guidance of veteran performers like Bannada Kutyapu, Kunhanna Shetty and Kedagadi Gundappa Gowda, went on to master the art form.
The veteran Yakshagana performer joined the troupe, Kateel Mela in 1970, as an artiste and later took over the management of the troupe.
During his career, he was known for his ‘Bannada Vesha’ or colourful disguises. His most popular role was the portrayal of Mahishasur, the demon who was killed by Goddess Durga in the play Sri Devi Mahatme. The unique choreography of the dance, particularly, that of Mahishasur, earned him much praise.
The popular Yakshagana artiste, who proficiently adopted the roles of mythological antagonists including Ravana, Myravana, Veerabhadra, Arunasura, Rudrbheema, Chandagopa and Kaundleeka, earned a lot of fame for his dialogue delivery.
Deviprasad Shetty, person in-charge of Kateel Mela, organised a public viewing of Gangaiah Shetty’s body on Thursday morning.
His body will be taken back to Gerukatte, his home town, for the last rites on Thursday night.